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Panama - More Than A Canal

Panama is the only country in Central America to be under the Eastern Standard Time Zone, and is therefore one hour ahead. The climate is pleasantly tropical with an average temperature of 80°F all year, nights are generally cooler. There are two seasons, Rainy and Dry . . . with Rainy Season running from approximately May to December, and in spite of its raining every day, rarely does a day pass without the sun shining. During Dry Season, the Trade Winds blow ... with beautiful blue skies and white puffy clouds.

Located in the center of the Western Hemisphere, Panama borders on the Caribbean Sea in the north, the Pacific Ocean in the south, Colombia in the east and Costa Rica in the west. Due to the "s" shaped configuration of its land, Panama is the only country in the world where the sun rises in the west and sets in the east.

Panama's government is unitary, republican, and democratic and representative and is constituted by three power branches. the Executive Branch is formed by the President, two Vice-Presidents, and twelve Ministers of State; the Legislative Power vested in the Legislative Assembly, composed of 72 legislators; and the Judicial
Power is exercised by nine Magistrates. These three branches are the rulers of the nation. Panama is politically divided into nine Provinces and two Comarcas (Indian territories); Bocas del Toro, Cocle, Colon, Chiriqui, Darien, Herrera, Los Santos, Panama, Veraguas and the Comarcas of Kuna Yala and Embera. These in turn, are divided into 67 Districts and the latter, into 510 Corregimientos.

Language: Spanish is the official language; however, English is spoken and understood in the major cities...Western Caribbean Creole English is spoken by 14% of the population. Dialects: Rio Abajo, Bocas del Toro, Colon. Their ancestors came from Barbados and Jamaica in the mid-19th century to work in fruit plantations, and later to build the railway and canal. Influences from both eastern and western Caribbean creole English. Apparently intelligible with Jamaican and other Central American creoles. Four distinct creole varieties in Panama; Bocas del Toro has an English base with Guaymi, Spanish, and possibly French influence. Colon and Rio Abajo have an English base with recent Spanish. Formerly education was in English, but is now in Spanish. Work in progress.

The population is estimated at 2,339,329, it has a density of 30.8 persons per square kilometer. Nearly 49% of the people live in the urban areas. The population of the metropolitan area of Panama City is estimated at 825,300 persons. There are three major Indian groups in Panama: the Kunas on the San Blas Islands off the Caribbean coast, the Embera in the province of Darien, and the Guaymies in Chiriqui, Bocas del Toro, and Veraguas provinces. There are also Teribe and Bokota Indians in Bocas del Toro and Waunaans in Darien. In the early 16th century over 60 Indian tribes lived in Panama. These Indians came from the Mayas of Guatemala and Mexico and from the Chibchas of Colombia.

Sports: All outdoor sports can be played year round. Golf, tennis, swimming, surfing, fishing, boating, bicycle riding, climbing, rock hunting, scuba diving. There is a race track, and a school where the world's best jockeys have been trained; there are boxing matches, baseball, basketball and cock fights.

Boxing - World Champions:
• "Panama" Al Brown • Ismael Laguna • Alfonso "Peppermint" Frazer • Roberto Duran • Enrique Pinder • Ernesto "Nato" Marcel • Eusebio Pedroza • Hilario Zapata • Jaime Rios • Alfonso Lopez • Rigoberto Riasco • Jorge Lujan • Rafael Ortega • Luis Ibarra • Rafael Pedroza • Alfredo Layne • Victor Cordoba • Carlos Murillo.
Baseball - Major Leaguers:
Eduardo Acosta • Juan Berenguer • Enrique Burgos • Rod Carew • Osvaldo Chavarria • Webbo Clark • Gil Garrido • Roberto Kelly • Allan Lewis • Hector Lopez • Carlos Maldonado • Ramiro Mendoza • Orlando Miller • Ivan Murrell • Benjamin Oglivie • Sherman Obando • Adolfo Phillips • Bobby Prescott • Fernando Ramsey • Mariano Rivera • Reuben Rivera • Dave Roberts • Humberto Robinson • Olmedo Saenz • Chico Salmon • µManny Sanguillen • Pat Scantlebury • Reinaldo Stennett • Rupe Toppin • Ramon Webster.
.....Pat Scantlebury, Vibert Clark, and Leon Kellman played in the Negro League's East/West All-Star Game in 1950.
.....Canal Zone players: Joe Cicero [1930s] • Greg Litton [son of Coach Litton, CHS] • Jaime Cocanower [Military kid] • Jim Riley • Luther and Larry Quinn, played in the minors after high school • Eddie Napoleon, played baseball in the minor league, managed in the minors...and went on to coach in the major leagues [both 3rd and 1st base]; retired 1999 from the Texas Rangers organization. [This list compiled by John Carlson - who still lives in Panama.]

Fishing Panama...Noted for its all-year-round fishing in salt and fresh water, Panama provides better year-round spear fishing than any other country in the world. Having two oceans which are only 50 miles apart is advantageous to all fishermen. You can try fishing for Tarpon, Kingfish, Mackerel, Snook or Red Snapper in the soft blue waters of the San Blas Islands in the Caribbean; or try your luck for Marlin, Sailfish, Wahoo, Red Snapper, Amberjack, Dolphin or Corbina and other species in its Pacific waters. You may also try your luck in the fresh waters of the Chagres River and Gatun Lake. There you will find an abundance of Peacock Bass, Snook, Tarpon, etc. At Pinas - the kingdom of the Black Marlin - many fishing records have been broken. Whether you are an expert or an amateur, out after the really big fish and a serious weekend of fishing, or just enjoying a day’s fun in the bay, Panama has something to offer you. Even to the rank amateur in the art, nothing can equal the thrill of the strike, of seeing a giant fish gleaming in the sunlight and leaping out of the water in a frantic effort to shake the hook. A flash, a splash and then the fish disappears; the line begins to race out, and the battle is on. Record catches are to be found in both fresh and salt water fishing. Panama waters boast outstanding catches of Marlin (1006 lbs), Sailfish over 200 lbs., Yellowfin Tuna at better than 100 lbs., Jew fish at 400 lbs., Corbina running up to 35 - and Red Snapper weighing in at 60 pounds. The folowing species are plentiful year-round: Sailfish, Marlin, Bass, Tarpon, Bluegill, Mackerel, Amberjack, Roosterfish, Barracuda and Tuna. Dolphin and Wahoo are most plentiful from May through November. Marlin, Sailfish, Snook, Corbina, Red Snapper, Mackerel, Tuna, Amberjack and Tarpon are at their peak season from December to April. In the mountains of Panama you will find the Chiriqui Viejo River which is noted for its native Rainbow trout. Whether the criterion is size, variety, or quantity, there is no doubt that Panama has earned its title as a number one fishing paradise.

PANAMA - A Bird Watcher's Paradise
An orinthologist's paradise, there are more different birds found here than in all of North America north of Mexico - approximately 933 species. Though the abundance of birds is evident throughout the year, April and early May are especially favorable for bird watching. It is the beginning of rainy season, a time when not only the native species but also the North American bireds in migration may be observed. South American species flying to Central America also can be seen. It is estimated that 6 billion birds, adults and young, moving at night from Canada and the United States, migrate to southern United States, Mexico, Central America and South America each winter. A large number of these are seen in Panama.

Besides the striking grackle which may be seen most anywhere except the dense forest, are the birds of the tanager family noted for their brilliancy of plumage. They are blue, yellow, green, and red. The crimson and black species locally called "sangre de toro" is usually seen at the edge of the jungle or along the roads in the Interior.

At this time of the year, the lovely musical notes of the Panama thrush tanager may be heard ringing out from the jungle. One of Panama's most beautiful birds, this tanager is dark slate with a rose-red stripe on the sides of the forehead broadening in front of the eves. The male has a loud sweet whistle of notes in different pitches. Related to the tanagers are the honeycreepers, the family of small song birds which abound in the humid, heavily wooded areas of the Isthmus. Bright shades of blue and green predominate in the males and yellow predominate in the males and yellow is prominent in some species. One of the most brilliant is the red-legged blue honeycreeper. the male is deep sapphire blue with a turquoise crown. Part of the underwing is yellow and flashes out brightly when the bird is in flight. The female is olive green with underparts of paler and brighter green. The honeycreeper rarely sings in full daylight, but in the breeding season, the male sings a weak, unmelodious song at dawn.

Common and comical to watch in the open fields are the small blue-black grassquits that leap vertically several feet and alight again in the smae spot, uttering a few short notes during the jump. On a spotting tour, a birder may also observe on the Panama countryside barred ant shrikes, sparrows, Panama robins, which resemble their northern relatives, hummingbirds, woodpeckers, saltators, wrens, the "pico-gordo," the thick-billed euphonia, which has a sweet canary-like sound, and flycatchers, which probably outnumber them all. Busy little seedeaters are very numerous at the end of the dry season and the mangrove warbler is always to be found in the swamps. Of special interest to the bird watcher is the oropendula which suspends his long hanging nest fromd the branches of large trees. The male sings a long-drawn, far-carrying liquid gurgle as he bows forward into an inverted position, raising his wings above his back. Doves are abundant and very tame in the fields, gardens, and along the roads. A flock of ducks is not a rare sight.

Shore birds, practically all migrants, are abundant. Sea birds also are numerous and breed in immense numbers on the islands in Panama Bay. Laughing gulls, royal terns, brown pelicans and frigate birds are usually seen along the shore. Another large family of birds is that of the kingfisher ranging in size from a small songbird to a crow. they are found near the water and feed on small fish which they catch by plunging into the water. They nest in holes in trees and banks. The motmots, related to the kingfishers, are beautiful birds of green, blue and russet with graduated tails bare about an inch above the extremities, forming racket-shaped tips. The bird itself preens off the barbs. Motmots are found in the deep forests or dense thickets, often sitting in one place for a long time. A fairly common bird in woods and undergrowth is the squirrel cuckoo, somewhat like the widely distributed long-tailed members of the family. A slow, melancholy call, like a whistle of variations is heard in the savannas. It is the northern striped cuckoo, called "tres pesos" by the Panamanians. these birds call ot each other by the hour bringing music to the open fields. Where there are cattle, the tick bird or "garrapatero" is surely to be found as he feeds on insects on cattle.

A frog-like croak which may be heard more than half a mile across the open comes from one of the most striking and distinctive of all tropical birds - the toucan, a large jungle bird. It has an enormous, slightly curved yellowish green bill, nearly as long as its body and very thick. The brightly colored toucan roosts in holes in trees and feeds on fruit. A favorite of bird watchers and non-birders too, is the family of parrots represented by several species on the Ishtmus including parrakeets and macaws. Their plumage is highly colored and variegated, with green being the predominant color. Parrots are noisy birds with harsh voices and usually nest in hollow trees, the large species inhabiting the deep forest. They remain quiet during the day but can be heard squawking early in the morning and before dark.

The macaw, the large, magnificent, blue and yellow or scarlet bird, is the showiest member of the parrot family. It has a pwoerful hooked beak which it uses to crack palm nuts and is extremely noisy. Fairly common, macasw are usually seen in pairs and frequent the tops of trees. One of the most common and widely diestributed birds of the Isthmus is the parrakeet. Watchers may observe the orange-chinned parrakeet at sunset going from tree to tree keeping up a shrill chattering as it feeds. The Veragua parrakeet is apple green passing to bluish green on top of his head with greenish blue wings, yellowish below. The bill is horn color. The smaller "perico" is bright yellowish green with a patch of bright orange on his chin and upper throat. These beautiful little creatures are often caught and sold as cage pets.

The Quetzal can only be seen in the native province of Chiriqui. The Harpy Eagle is the national bird of Panama and can be found in the Darien Jungle.